Thoughts on Blogging, Social Media, and Finding the Right Balance

I’ve been giving my social media habits a great deal of thought lately.

I won’t go into the messy details, but over the past few months my habits have changed a great deal.  In January, I made the decision to scale back my consumption and deleted Facebook from my phone.  This may not be a huge change, but it’s deeply impacted the way I experience the social media world.

For one thing, I have more time on my hands.  Instead of wiling away the hours scrolling through status updates and baby photos and engagement announcements, I spend my time doing things that I love.  I go for long walks.  I read more.  I hang out with family.

Another consequence is that I’ve shifted more time to Instagram.  With only photos and stories, Instagram is more curated and eats up far less time.  The more time I spend on Instagram, the more I fall in love with it.  I love putting together photos that I find beautiful and coming up with captions and quotes.  This summer, I started using the story feature and am able to share quirky, more casual bits of my life.

And then there’s my blog.  At the beginning of this year, I set out to be more of an official blogger… and quickly fizzled out.  I attempted to do a series of posts of literary places I’ve visited.  That lasted for two weeks.  Here and there, I’ve done several one-off posts that I’ve been pleased with.

I’ve been blogging for nearly ten years now on a variety of sites and, over the years, I’ve tried a number of different techniques.  (And, before you ask, no I will not share a link to my blog from high school.)

I think that part of my inconsistency is that I lack a central focus and vision.  While I adore my title, Keep Your Feet, and all that it implies, I definitely don’t have a theme.  Sometimes, I’m a book blogger.  Other times I write about travel and adventures.  Other times, I write about more personal things.  And, sometimes, I hardly post at all. Continue reading

November in Review

Because I was a bad blogger and skipped out on October… here is my November Month in Review!

Month in Review blog heading

I. Blogging

November has been a good month.  Although I haven’t been writing like a maniac like my NaNoWriMo and NaNoBloPoMo friends, I definitely have been hanging out with my words.  The past few weeks have been filled with meaningful posts that I’m really proud of.  Be sure to read my comparison between apple farming and writing, my frustration at American responses to the refugee crisis, and musings from the shore of Lake Superior.  I also posted a poem that’s been sitting in my archives for over two years.  Be sure to check it out and let me know if I should put on my poet hat more often.

Looking ahead, I have an exciting December planned!  I hope to start posting book reviews again.  I also have a fun holiday-themed series coming up that I am going to need your help for!  Stay tuned for more details.

II. Books

This month, I was a literary fiend, tearing through books at an alarming rate.  I keep track of how many books I read each year on Goodreads.  In the past week, my count has exceeded 100–a personal record!

I’ve spent a LOT of time over the past two weeks binge-reading fluffy YA novels.  Rainbow Rowell is SO GOOD.  Marissa Meyer’s conclusion to her Lunar Chronicles series was incredibly satisfying (review coming soon!).  And, despite my love/hate relationship with Stephanie Perkins, I managed to eat up one of her novels in less than 24 hours.  (Oh, the beauty of Thanksgiving Break.)

Here’s a list of some of my reads:

  • Symphony of Ages trilogy by Elizabeth Haydon
  • Fangirl/Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  • Seven Words of Power by James Maxwell
  • Winter by Marissa Meyer
  • Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
  • Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber
  • Forgotten God by Francis Chan
  • Yes Please by Amy Pohler

III. Life

November was filled with unexpected twists and turns.

Things at work went from awful to not-so-bad.  Of course, once I finally get a firm grip on the job, it’s time to hand it off to someone else.  We managed to find a stellar candidate for the Executive Director position.  The hiring decision isn’t official yet, but will be in a week or so.  This means that my brief stint into Chamber of Commerce life is nearly over.  No tears are being shed over this.

Orchard season also came to a close.  We’ve been going strong since August, but finally reached the end.  It was a season for the record books–biggest crowds, biggest crops, biggest sales.  It was an exhausting, rewarding ride and I am happy to be done.  I do miss the physical work.  Hauling around 40 lb crates of fruit helped me stay in shape and I liked the monotony.  Still, having actual weekends is an absolute dream!

This month, I celebrated my twenty third birthday by enjoying a shopping spree with my mom at the Mall of America.  I spent WAY too much money, but have worn my purchases (a sweater, new pants, some scarves) enough times to make it more than worthwhile.

I hung out with friends quite a bit.  My high school buddies and I had a movie night, where they introduced me to The Sandlot.  Now whenever my mom exasperates me, I can knowingly retort, “You’re killin’ me, Smalls!”  My friend, Kassandra, and I had a delightful brunch at a cafe in St. Paul a few weeks back and I was reunited with my long-time friend, Holly, who made the trip from Washington D.C. to spend Thanksgiving with her family.  My study abroad friend, Maddie, came up from her now-home Minneapolis and we spent a memorable afternoon closing up the orchard, wandering around Taylors Falls, and discussing music, politics, and spirituality.

I managed to escape home for a night by accompanying my mom and brother to Duluth, where they had work meetings.  While there, I had some quality me-time strolling along the lakeshore.  That afternoon, we went to a press conference and I got to shake hands with a U.S. Congressman, which was pretty cool.

Finally, the most unexpected thing of all happened in the form of an opening to live and study at a ministry in England.  If you had told me a month ago that I’d be returning to the U.K., I would have laughed in your face.  It’s amazing what a few short weeks can do!  I’m not really sure what to expect from this adventure, but I’m having a lot of fun dreaming about it.  Who knows if I’ll ever come home?

That wraps up my Month in Review!  As always, thanks for reading.

300 & Counting

I’ve hit a landmark.  Recently, I reached 300 followers.  For many blogs, this number may seem small, tiny, inconsequential.  For me, though, it means the world.

When blogging, it’s always a challenge to straddle the line between creating quality content for the sake of your readers and quality content for sake of pleasing yourself.  I do my best to write posts that readers will enjoy.  I love you guys and want you to stick around.  At the end of the day, though, my ultimate goal is to remain true to myself.

I’m a selfish writer.  I really am.  I do this because it brings me life and I can’t imagine ever stopping.  I know that everyone who follows Keep Your Feet isn’t necessarily a reader.  That’s okay.  Although I try to follow only sites I will actually read, there is a tendency to follow others just for the follow-back.  I get that.

But for those of you who DO read, thank you.  For those of you who have not just hit “Follow”,  but take time to come along side me and spend time with my words, thank you.  By reading, liking, and commenting, you inspire me to keep going.  I’ve got a universe of words within me and there are days when I just want to throw them in a bucket and let them rot.  When this happens, the thought of you is what motivates me cherish my words and lovingly string them into coherent thoughts.  I’ve learned a great deal about myself and my identity as a writer over the past few months, and that would not have been possible without you.  Your words and encouragement mean the world to me.

I don’t know where Keep Your Feet is going.  I don’t know if it’ll stay at is it is or grow or shrink into obscurity.  Frankly, I don’t care.  I’m just thankful to be where I am today.

Blogger Recognition Award

After Writing 101 ended, I kind of crashed and spent my free time binge-watching Netflix for a solid week, leaving me a bit behind on the blog.  I’m slowly catching up on awards.

A couple of weeks ago, Shannon from If You Captured Your Life in Snapshots, What Would It Look Like? nominated me for the Blogger Recognition Award!  It’s designed to spread love among the blogosphere and recognize sites we love.  Part of the award includes sharing

BloggerRecognitionAwardI don’t know if sharing your blogging story is part of the award, but Shannon did in her post, so I’ll continue the trend.

When I was fifteen, I was deep into the Harry Potter fandom.  This was before Tumblr was a thing and, in order to engage with my fellow nerds, I entered discussions on fan forums.  I ended up becoming a core member of a forum dedicated to a particular podcast and, in the process, made my first online friends.  Anna lived in Chicago and liked to knit.  Cathy, who is a fantastic poet, lived in California.  We were all roughly the same age and would spend hours on the forum talking about life, love, and Harry Potter.

One day, Cathy brought up the subject of blogging.  I was an aspiring fan-fiction novelist at the time, so writing was always on my mind.  Being a fan of my work, Cathy suggested I start a blog.  I thought about it for a while and thought, “… why not?”  Having a corner of the internet to myself sounded like fun.

After doing a bit of research, I ended up getting an account on Blogger.  I stayed there for five years, recording the woes of high school and occasionally posting snippets of my writing.  The only people who read my site were fellow writer friends.  Thank GOODNESS.  Blogging back then was a messy affair.  I used my site as a spewing place for all my thoughts and emotions.  Looking back, I’m thankful to not have a wider readership.

When I studied abroad two years ago, I knew that I wanted to start fresh and make a travel blog.  I also knew that I wanted to switch over to WordPress.  So I did!  In the Bellow and the Uproar was born.  Named for a Virginia Woolf quote, it was home to my travels and adventures in England for three and a half months.

When I came home, I knew I didn’t want to go back to the old Blogger site.  It reminded me too much of my high school self and didn’t reflect where I wanted to go from here.  But I still wanted to write.  So, a year and a half ago, Keep Your Feet was born.  I’ve been here ever since.

That, friends, my blogging story!  Starting young has allowed me to grow into myself as a blogger.  I’ve been told I have a distinctive voice in my writing.  Friends say that, when they read my blog, it’s so me that they hear my voice in their head.  There are a lot of things I wish I could go back and un-say, especially on my first blog, but I’m still thankful for the chance to always learn and grow.

Now for Shannon’s bonus question: If you could go anywhere, would you go to a Where or a Who?

My first impression is to say Where.  There are so many dots on my “To-Visit” map.  But I’ve done a great deal of traveling in the past and, although solo adventures are exhilarating in their own way, they’re also a bit lonely.  Seeing the world isn’t as fun if you don’t have someone to share it with.  So I think my answer is Who.  I don’t have many super close friends–only a few people in the world truly know and appreciate all the corners of me, messy bits and all.  The older I get, these few souls seem to move farther and farther away.  One of my dearest friends lives in Japan, others live in Austria, and I’ve got people all over the United States that I miss so much my heart aches.  Seeing them again would make my month.  We’d drink tea and talk for hours.

Feel like this post is missing something?  Check out my personal rules regarding awards on my Award Policies page.

I Write Because I Refuse to Stop (Writing 101, Day 20)

Four weeks ago, I was asked an important question: Why do you write?  Unsure of how to respond, I gave it some thought and came to the conclusion that I write because I always have and cannot seem to stop.

I’ve learned a few things about myself in the past few weeks.  I now realize that, at some point during college, I lost sight of my identity as a writer. It always seemed like my classmates were so much better than I was.  Compared to their eloquent prose and poetry, my words felt feeble, hollow, and lifeless.  But maybe that is because, all along, I wasn’t doing the right kind of writing.  I took creative writing classes, but I’m not a creative writer.  I’ve won essay contests, but I’m not an academic.  That’s not me.

This place, this blog, these posts… this is me.

So much time has been spent comparing myself with other writers that I’ve forgotten who I am.  Participating in Writing 101 has brought everything back.  My identity, ultimately, does not stream from my classmates, friends, and fellow bloggers.  It comes from myself.  It comes from the fact that there are words bubbling from deep within me, waiting to be released.  The words pester me.  They nag, pulling at the back of my mind.  I cannot keep silent.

At the beginning of Writing 101, I stated that I write because I cannot stop.  At the end, I find my answer has changed.

I write because I cannot stop; I write because I refuse to stop;  I write because this is who I am.

Recent Reads (Writing 101, Day 19)

One of my modivations for signing up for Writing 101 was to push myself out of my comfort zone.  Part of this has included pushing myself to become more active and actually comment on sites.  Today marks another challenge.  With my busy schedule, I totally forgot to interview someone.  Instead, I’m compiling a list of posts I’ve recently read and enjoyed.  I always feel weird linking to blogs I don’t feel I know well… but here goes.

These are all posts I really enjoyed!  I hope you like them as well.

What posts have you been reading lately?

On blogging and change

It’s time for a haphazard conversation about blogging, life, and change.  I’m not feeling particularly eloquent at the moment, but that’s no reason to not talk with you all.

You know that posting schedule I made at the beginning of the summer?  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I haven’t followed it for the past month.  My promised features have completely fallen flat.  Every once in a while, I put out a book review.  But those Thursday posts about my job at an apple orchard?  Those were abandoned by the wayside and I never looked back.

To be fair, I’ve started drafting a couple of book reviews that will hopefully keep me consistent over the next few weeks.  I’ve also been painting a lot lately, which means a new Sketchbook Corner is coming!  Keep an eye out for those over the coming weeks!

You may also remember that, a couple weeks ago, I mentioned that I signed up for Blogging 201.  About that… half of the assignment emails remain unread in my inbox.  They just didn’t feel pertinent with my blogging goals.  (Which are relatively nonexistent, despite the fact that the first assignment was to set blogging goals.  But that’s beside the point.)

Still, I’m determined to take advantage of the Blogging University classes and have registered for the BRAND NEW Writing 101.  It starts next week and, from the looks of it, is aimed at helping with posting consistently.  I’m excited to start getting the assignments and engaging more in the WordPress community.  (Which I’ve been pretty dismal at lately.)

I have, however, been tweaking my site’s theme.  I’ve rearranged the widgets–check out the footer at the bottom of the page for some site navigational tools and a glimpse into my Goodreads page.  I also designed a new header, which I’m kind of in love with.  It conveys what I hope this blog is/will become much better than the old one.  It’s easy on the eyes, simple, and hints of possibilities and adventure.

cropped-kyfmtn-banner.jpg

On a personal note, I’ve started seriously thinking about what adventure to pursue once my orchard job ends in December.  I’m not exactly sure what I want to do (does anyone?), but poking around job listings have started giving me ideas.  I had a conversation with my mom yesterday about a potential local opportunity that got me excited just thinking about.  I’ve also started fantasizing about furniture arrangements and having a kitchen of my own.  I take these as signs that, when the time comes to move out on my own, I’ll be more than ready.

So far, my post-grad life hasn’t been the daring adventure I hoped it would be.  But I’m definitely enjoying the fact that, in a few weeks, I won’t be going back to school for the first time in my life.  And, although my current job isn’t the most thrilling thing in the world, I actually enjoy it a great deal.  When the time comes to do something different, I’m excited to see what adventures crop up–small or big scale.

What changes are going on in your corner of the universe?  (This can be blog or life related.)

Who is this all for? Thoughts on audience and writer’s block.

Although staying on top of Blogging 101 assignments has been in my mind, I keep forgetting to post about them.  So here are some thoughts regarding what’s going through my blogger mind…

Yesterday’s task had me scratching my head a bit: Publish a post you’d like your ideal audience member to read.  Of course, this lead to the question… Who is my ideal audience?  If anyone in the world could read my blog, who would that be?  And how do I appeal to them?

I’ll get to these answers in a bit.  First, a story.

A couple of years ago, I found myself in an Innovative Creative Writing class.  Our textbook was Lance Olsen’s Architectures of Possibility and, throughout the semester, we read a bunch of trippy, postmodern work and strove to break the mold of “traditional” literature.  Our mantra was something along the lines of “Do something new!  Break the mold!  Be innovative!

During that class, I spent a great deal of time thinking about blogging.  For the first time, I wanted to try my hand at writing not for myself, but for others.  I put a great deal of thought and wit into my posts and appealed to my classmates for help.  By the end of the semester, though, I was exhausted.  Left with very little motivation, I genuinely wanted to write.  The problem was every time I sat down to post, I got so bogged down by the pressure of a potential audience that the words completely froze.

Whenever I find myself struggling with writer’s block, I can usually trace it back to this problem.  Even last night when I sat down to follow through with the assignment and write a post for my ideal audience, I couldn’t seem to do it.  I’ve come to the conclusion that, when it comes to writing non-academically, I do my best without constraints.

The following quote says it better than I ever could:

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” Toni Morrison

If writing novels isn’t your thing, there’s always the WordPress version : Write the blog you want to read.

A few years ago, I spent a semester at a university in London.  Before I departed, I noticed that everyone I knew who studied abroad made travel blogs, but always let them fall by the wayside after a handful of posts.  This frustrated me!  I wanted details about adventures–history, fun stories, photos, etc.  So, when I created In the Bellow and the Uproar during my own travels, I stuck with it–creating the travel blog I had always wanted.  (The funny thing about this was that, although in my eyes I had created perfection, none of my friends actually bothered to read it.)

Here on Keep Your Feet, I want to write a blog that I want to read.  I want to create posts that I come back to.  In a way, I suppose my ideal audience is myself.  Gosh, is that pretentious?  I hope not!!  I really don’t want to come off as snobbish in any way.  I just know that when I strive to create for others, my abilities peeter out.

In the end, I’d rather write for myself and create decent content than write for others and not create at all.  If my content your fancy, that’s awesome!

Am I the only one who struggles with the idea of writing for an audience?  Let me know in the comments!  Fellow Blogging 101 classmates, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject!

Why I Write

The thing about blogging is that it is so easy to forget why you write.  I’ve been blogging for going on seven years (not always on WordPress) and have lost sight of my purpose so many times I can’t even count.

You see, it’s so easy to get sidetracked for so many different reasons.

The most alluring distraction, personally, is the desire for followers.  You want high statistics and you want them now.  Blog envy creeps in.  You begin to ask, “Why does this person have so many followers and I don’t?”  It becomes about the numbers.  You post just to get your name out there, to get hits and views.  As time goes on, post quality decreases.  You begin posting for the sake of putting stuff out there and getting even higher stats.

Fun fact about this.  Sometime last spring, I conducted an experiment.  I composed a short poem and published it on the spot.  The writing quality was terrible.  It wasn’t even a poem, just a handful of crappy abstract lines spaced apart from each other.  What’s funny is that it resulted in a handful of new followers.

Then there’s the other side of the coin: having impossible standards.  Last semester, I was in a class on Innovative Creative Writing.  I learned a lot about the writing process, but more importantly, learned that I never want to be a professional writer.  The idea of writing novels, editing, and publishing is akin to having my nails ripped off.  But my classmates were all extremely pretentious and, in order to keep up, I had to play along.  It severely impacted my blogging.  Posting almost never happened and, when it did, I second guessed everything.  It took months to get to the point where I was comfortable writing again.

Those are the two ends of the spectrum.  I lie somewhere in the middle, dashing to and fro.  It all goes down to this: Why do I write?  Do I write for an audience, to get followers and attention?  If so, am I willing to sacrifice quality to achieve this goal? Or, are my standards so high that nothing gets posted?  And, though, good, will the content that makes the cut even be seen?  Which end of the spectrum is better?

My answer: neither.

It’s not like these are bad things.  I want people to read the words I pen and I want those words to be good ones.  But as a focus, as fuel for my blog, neither capture the heart and soul of what I want to accomplish.

I write for myself.  I write for expression.  I write to preserve my twenty two year old self so someday I can look back and see how far I have come.  I write for the pure joy of putting words on a page (or, in this case, a document), to see my fragmented thoughts and experiences knitted together.

If ever I start writing for any of the above reasons, I’ve lost my purpose.  When I lose my purpose, writing loses its joy.  So, despite the appeal of high stats and pristine posts, I’m determined to keep my eyes fixed on the joy.

How about you, readers?  Do you relate with my distractions?

And, most importantly:Why do you write?